Two psychiatrists at Terrell State Hospital resigned this week after being told they would face disciplinary action for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from a pharmaceutical company to promote the drug Seroquel, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
According to agency documents, Dr. Anthony Claxton, the hospital's clinical director, and Dr. Lisa Perdue, a psychiatrist, received large amounts of money from pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to promote the company’s drugs to other doctors and state regulators.
Claxton and Perdue were notified Tuesday by DSHS that they had violated department rules and faced possible termination. By the end of the week, both had resigned, a DSHS spokeswoman said.
Claxton is accused of taking $231,000 from AstraZeneca for “promotional speaking and consulting services” on at least 166 occasions dating back to 2005. Perdue allegedly received $615,525 for 460 such instances since 2005. State health code forbids employees from accepting other compensation that could affect their official duties.
According to DSHS, both doctors approached members of the Executive Formulary Committee — which oversees drug standards in Texas — to lobby them to add the company’s drugs to the state's list of approved drugs. Perdue is accused of using talking points crafted by an AstraZeneca employee.
Claxton and an attorney for Perdue sent separate letters to DSHS responding to the accusations.
“I do not deny that I presented these programs,” Claxton wrote, adding that he thought he had received permission to do so. He said he was “disturbed by the timing of this action” given that he was scheduled to retire in 76 days.
Perdue’s lawyer suggested DSHS had violated Perdue’s due process by demanding a response to the allegations within 24 hours of being notified. He questioned the amount of money DSHS says Perdue received, and said that Perdue advocated for the drugs “on her own personal time” because she thought they “offered less toxic side effects for some patients.”
Claxton and Perdue couldn’t be reached immediately for comment on Friday.
Terrell State Hospital is one of 10 psychiatric hospitals operated by DSHS. The drugs Claxton and Perdue were promoting, Seroquel and Seroquel XR, are used to treat schizophrenia, major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.
DSHS spokeswoman Carrie Williams said the violations were turned up during an investigation into AstraZeneca by the Texas Attorney General’s office. She said there was no evidence that the psychiatrists had compromised their own patients’ health by overprescribing the drug.
“There’s no issue with patient care, no issue with abuse or anything of that nature,” Williams said.
Williams said the department wouldn’t pursue any further action now that both doctors have resigned.